George Best's Back!


THE BEST by Jack Rosenthal at the Lass O’Gowrie,

36 Charles Street, Manchester M1 7DB.

Tuesday 12 March – Monday 18 March

Stage adaptation by Ian Winterton directed by Colin Connor

Assistant director Nick Birchill

Produced by Lisa Connor and Gareth Kavanagh


Tel: 0161 273 6932 @thelassogowrie



THE BEST , a long-lost screenplay about George Best by Jack Rosenthal, will have its world premiere on stage at the Lass O Gowrie on Tuesday 12 March, as part of Manchester Irish Festival.


Maureen Lipman welcomed the first ever performance of her late husband’s screenplay The Best, after watching rehearsals at the Lass O’Gowrie.


I had never even read until two weeks ago, now to watch it being performed by a group of truly gifted actors. It was very moving for me but also very funny and enlightening about the nature of hubris. It’s really good. I didn’t expect to go to a reading of Jack’s play in a pub in Manchester and it turn my heart over. But it did.


“We all need heroes and George is a flawed hero. But he’s got mitigating circumstances and that is what this play is all about. We make sportsmen into heroes, we take them up too high and, when their wings get singed, we bring them back down. We admire someone so much and then, suddenly, he believes his own mythology.”


In The Best, George says: “Once a week I was God to 50,000 fans all screaming for miracles. A whole city. A whole country. Millions of people. Miracles I was good at.”


Mrs Danziger, his therapist, replies: “Mr. Best – alcoholics we’re equipped to handle. I’m not so sure about maniacs.”


Maureen said that the audience did not need to be football fans to appreciate The Best, set in 1981 when legendary Manchester United footballer George Best, aged 35, was playing for the San Jose Earthquakes and checks into rehab. The modern day parallels with Paul Gascoigne are hard to ignore.


As George battles his demons, his wife Angie, 29, gives an overly frank interview to a journalist. Through a series of flashbacks, we hear of George’s rapid rise and fall and its devastating effect on Angie and, worst of all, his own mother Ann.




George’s proud mother Ann was unable to handle the media attention that came with George’s fame. She became an alcoholic, even though she had never previously touched a drop. She is seen in the play at various points between 1955 and her premature death from alcohol-related heart problems in 1978 at the age of 54. George was tormented by her death.




Born in Cheetham Hill, Manchester, Jack began his career at Granada in 1960, initially in the promotions department. He soon started working on the station's new soap, staying to pen 129 episodes of

Coronation Street. He helped establish its style, implanting earthy, working-class humour. He also wrote for ITV

Another Sunday and Sweet FA, Ready When You Are Mr McGill, The Lovers, Bootsie and Snudge, London’s Burning and

The Knowledge.










After leaving The Street, he became one of the most respected TV writers of his generation writing

The Evacuees, Bar Mitzvah Boy, Eskimo Day, Cold Enough For Snow and

Spend Spend Spend for the BBC. He died in 2004, having written more than 250 scripts. A new exhibition called

Jack and Maureen: A Creative Partnership is at Manchester Jewish Museum on Cheetham Hill Road, until June 9.







Maureen said: “I had already seen the exhibition in Sheffield but I had never, ever, prepared for the fact they had this video of Jack giving a lecture, answering questions, and he’s just so adorable, so attractive, so lovely.





Press here to read our review from opening night



“It’s hard. It’s eight years ago that Jack died and he’s still hovering around somewhere. I think he’d be really, really happy with this. It ticks all the boxes that he liked, which is commitment, truth and playing against the line, playing underneath the line, telling the story. They are all young and wonderful actors. I was very stirred, I laughed, I cried, it’s terrific.”



Maureen is also passionate about Manchester United: “Well you saw how Ronaldo behaved the other night. Ronaldo did not want to score two goals against Man U.



“Whatever they say about the team, all the people that think they get too much notice, there is a magic about United. Its nothing to do with how they play, its to do with the words Man United and it goes back to the Busby Babes. It is really rather spooky sometimes, the lads, as Jack called them.



“Talking about spooky, I lost my iPhone and I got this old iPhone that used to be Jack’s, and put my SIM card in it, and up it came ‘Away the lads’. What an extraordinary thing to happen.



“They are a magnificent team. The way Fergie has brought them up again from youngsters and not bought expensive players. The opposite of what Chelsea and City are now doing. You do get soul.



“Jack was Man United from birth so I became Man United from marriage. Our son is Man United, in fact worse than his father. Jack used to watch United on Teletext because we didn’t have Sky because he said if he went they would lose. Two occasions at Wembley he went and they lost.



“It is very much part of our lives. I watch and still watch. Real Madrid was a travesty. That was not even a yellow card, never mind a red. I sincerely believe, and I’ll go to court for this, that the ref was bribed. Football’s full of it! They’ve got to be able to rewind it, like tennis, and say the ref was wrong.”



“This is a screenplay and you look at the West End stage and its full of films on stage. This clever chap Gareth Kavanagh has had the bright idea of looking through Jack’s work and seeing what hasn’t been done, a play about George Best with St Patrick’s Day coming up.



“With Jack’s screen plays, until its said, you don’t get the power of it… It’s like Chekov, or Neil Simon, everything fits in the actor’s mouth perfectly and, although there is a style, all the voices of all the characters are totally delineated. It was a joy to see those actors relishing those lines.”



Maureen also does not rate the modern day Coronation Street in comparison to Jack’s scripts from the 1960s. “You’ve got to have a murder every three weeks and someone sh*****g someone else’s wife every second week, and a child has to die, it is so not the ordinary life of every day folk.”



One of Jack’s scenes from Coronation Street 1968 featuring the Ogdens in a Chinese restaurant was performed by John Draycott and Joan Kempson at the Lass O’Gowrie in January 2012 and again at the launch of the Jack and Maureen: A Creative Partnership exhibition at the Manchester Jewish Museum.



“In three lines of non sequiturs you get an entire marriage. You couldn’t do that anymore. No-one is writing like that. The main difference is no-one is allowed to write plays anymore. No-one will commission a play. It is all series because they want you to watch on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, which none of us do. We all record it and watch it three weeks later. There is none of that, what the Americans call, the water-cooler factor.”







Producer and landlord of the Lass O’Gowrie Gareth Kavanagh said: "A lost Jack Rosenthal script about George Best? That's just Manchester royalty squared for us and we're thrilled to be bringing this amazing script back to life in time for the Manchester Irish Festival!"







Tickets for Tuesday 12th March at 7.30pm, Wednesday 13th March at 7.30pm, Thursday 14th March at 7.30pm, Friday 15th March at 7.30pm, Saturday 16th March at 7.30pm and Monday 18th March at 7.30pm cost £8 and are available from Advance booking is advisable as tickets are limited - only 26 tickets available for each show - and there is an age restriction of 16 and over.